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Philadelphia Chinatown organizations announce coalition opposing 76ers arena

Philadelphia Chinatown Coalition to Oppose the Arena
via spocphilly

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    Following the first public community meeting on the Philadelphia 76ers arena proposal, Chinatown community leaders have announced the official formation of the “Chinatown Coalition to Oppose the Arena.” 

    Alongside the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, business owners and leaders spoke up against the arena proposal in a press conference held in Chinatown on Monday.

    “This community has been around for 150 years. We are not stupid. We know that the billionaire developer’s interest is taking our land and erasing our community,” Steven Zhu, the president of the Chinese Restaurant Association of Greater Philadelphia, said. “Many people came to Chinatown to build a life. We are hardworking people. Unlike rich people, we pay our taxes. We are the kind of community that has built the cities of America.”

    Developer David Adelman previously offered to negotiate a community-benefits agreement that would involve business opportunities. Zhu, who is also the secretary of the Pennsylvania United Chinese Coalition representing 32 organizations, claimed that there will be no new jobs outside of construction. 

    “They plan to replace family-owned businesses with corporate chains,” Zhu said. “Businesses that support families will be replaced with low-paying jobs. All this is to make the developers richer. The traffic congestion that will happen once the arena is built will even cause more damage to our community.” 

    Elizabeth Koo, the senior counsel for economic justice with Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, pledged the organization’s commitment to support the coalition.

    The 76ers arena is yet another example of predatory development. The last few years have hit Chinatown hard. Racism and anti-Asian sentiment stoked at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic harmed Chinatown’s small businesses. And at the tail end of a pandemic that has damaged the social fabric of so many low-income immigrant neighborhoods, three billionaires are now proposing a multi-billion-dollar sports arena in Philadelphia that will destroy Chinatown’s small businesses and residential areas.

    Koo also mentioned that Chinatowns in the U.S. were created because of “the very type of violence that Asian Americans continue to experience today.”

    “Asian immigrants formed Chinatown after violent mobs drove them out of other areas,” she said. “Chinatowns across the country became neighborhoods where Asian Americans could protect the community and simply survive.” 

    According to leaders, 90 businesses have signed a petition to oppose the arena proposal. 

    The results of a systematic survey showed overwhelming opposition to the arena, illuminating serious concerns about how the years of deconstruction would harm businesses and residents. 

    More businesses are expected to sign on in the coming weeks.   

    The $1.3 billion arena is proposed to be built at the nearby Philadelphia Fashion District at 10th and Market Streets and is scheduled to open in 2030.

    Following the announcement in July last year, several community members and organizations in Chinatown have since voiced their opposition, citing concerns surrounding displacement, gentrification and the loss of Chinese culture in the area. 

    “Although we support the 76ers, we do not support the arena,” President of Philadelphia Suns Harry Leong, who was born and raised in Chinatown, said at the conference. “We know that this arena will destroy Chinatown. Gathering businesses is a significant part of why we are here today. This coalition can make a difference for our community.”


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